Are you looking for ways to tire out your favorite pup and keep him from getting bored while stuck at home this winter? Me too! Under normal circumstances, traveling with my dogs is my favorite way to spend a weekend, especially when we can hike new trails, drive back roads, and visit dog-friendly restaurant patios.
With travel on hold and remote work keeping us tethered to a home office, I’ve been seeking ways to keep my dogs happy and healthy without venturing too far. Despite the winter weather and being stuck at home, my dogs still need exercise, interaction, and love, and yours do too.
Hanging with my dogs is one of the best ways to get myself out of a funk, and no matter how annoyed I get when they constantly drop toys at my feet when I’m working it, the truth is that I always appreciate their persistence.
Looking for some creative ways to spend time with your dog while you’re stuck at home? Here are some of our favorite ways to adventure together, indoors and out.
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Teach Your Dog Some New Tricks
You probably already know this, but dogs really love learning new tricks, no matter how well trained they already are. The best way to teach your pup something new is to commit to practicing short, 15-minute sessions every day.
If your dog hasn’t learned the basics, like sit, stay, down, and come, that’s a good place to start. After that, the sky’s the limit. Teach your pup to stand on a skateboard, crawl through a tunnel, and jump through a hoop. Not only is trick training a stimulating activity when you can’t take your dog for a long walk, but it will turn them into life-long learners.
When it comes to trick training, use positive reinforcement techniques to help shape your dog’s behavior. During the early stages of learning a new skill, reward for approximation and effort. As your dog starts to understand what’s expected, hold back rewards until they do what you ask.
Give Your Dog a Spa Day
Who doesn’t love a spa day? Treat your pup to some pampering while you’re stuck at home. Start with a warm bath, a towel dry, and a good brushing, followed by a pedicure.
If you’re new to cutting your dog’s nails, start slow. We teach our dogs to love nail-cutting by doing one nail at a time, followed by a tasty treat. I know some dog owners who give their dog a Kong stuffed with treats and peanut butter to chew on while they clip. This is too distracting for my dogs and makes them wiggly. Instead, I fill a little bowl with treats, sit on the floor and ask the dogs to lie next to me. My dogs recognize the nail-clipping bowl and as soon as they see it they settle down and put their paws in my lap.
When you’ve finished clipping your dog’s nails, rub some soothing paw wax into their pads and elbows. Follow it all up with a doggie massage. Your pup never had it so good.
Go on a Sniffari
A sniffari is more than just a dog walk; it’s a walk where your dog gets to follow his nose while you follow along with the end of the leash. It’s fun to do sniffaris somewhere new, like a local park or trail, but you can also do them right in your backyard.
The idea here is to let your dog lead the way, so be prepared to go off course, spend a few minutes at the local pee tree, and visit places you would have never thought to check out.
You should obviously keep your dog away from anything gross or dangerous, but otherwise, it’s fun to let your pup lead the way. We use a 16-30 foot long lead for snifaris, so our dogs have a bit more freedom.
Have a Doggie Photo Shoot
Admit it. You already love taking photos of your dog, so why not plan a doggie photoshoot? This is the perfect activity after those spa treatments when your dog is looking his best. Dress your dog up in a colorful bandana and capture his best side. Selfies work too!
We’ve got black dogs right now and they’re notoriously hard to get good photos of. Natural outdoor lighting is best if you’re trying to capture a dark-colored dog. If you don’t have your own personal photographer, set your phone or camera on a tripod and use a remote shutter to get the shot.
Make Your Dog Some Healthy Treats
There are lots of ways to pamper your pet while stuck at home, and since everyone seems to be baking up a storm these days, why not invest some of that creative energy into cooking for your dog?
Our pups adore peanut butter. We can’t even open a jar without them running from wherever they are in the house to see if we’re making them something special. We’ve tried a bunch of different recipes, but so far, our dogs’ favorite recipe is the one for Granola Peanut Butter Crunchies.
Play Hide and Seek with Your Dog
Hide and seek is one of our favorite games to play with the pups on rainy days, and we’ve been doing it a lot while stuck at home as well. We’ve got two variations that we play, and the dogs love them both.
At first, I send the dogs to their beds and tell them to stay. I find a place to hide and then give a whistle. The dogs come running, and when they find me, they shower me with dog kisses and I give them some tasty treats. My favorite place to hide is behind the shower curtain. The downside to this version is that it’s pretty easy to run out of hiding spots, especially if you live in a small house as I do. Also, your dog needs to have a pretty good stay for this to work.
The next one is easier because I lock the dogs in the mudroom so I can hide their favorite ball or toy. Once I’ve hidden it, I let them out and ask them, “Where’s your toy?” Flynn will play this one all day. Malinda, who is still young, just follows Flynn around and then gets really excited when he finds the toy.
Playing hide and seek indoors or out gives the dogs physical and mental exercise, and is perfect for days when it’s too cold to get our exercise outdoors.
Exercise with Your Dog
A daily dog walk is a must in our house, but since we’ve been stuck at home, we’ve been taking two or three shorter walks just to get outside. Some days we take a leisurely walk in the woods. Other days, we run the trails or go for a hike with a steep ascent to get our hearts pumping. Flynn’s happiest moments are playing fetch, so we make sure to do some of that too. Exercising is way more fun with a dog or two by your side, and you know what they say - a tired dog is a happy dog.